MUZAFFARABAD: As 20 more Covid-19 patients surfaced in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) on Monday, government officials said the decision to suspend relaxations in lockdown was “need of the hour”.

“Ironically, people failed to follow precautions during relaxations in the lockdown which is why positive cases are popping up in big number,” said minister for information technology Dr Mustafa Bashir Abbasi, who is spokesperson for the government, at his regular online media briefing.

According to him, violation of standard operating procedure (SOP) by the shopkeepers and shoppers alike at all major markets across AJK had greatly dented concerted efforts by the government to contain the pandemic and subsequently necessitated withdrawal of relaxations.

“The way positive cases have started occurring this decision [to re-impose lockdown] has become need of the hour.”

The minister told mediamen that of the fresh 20 cases, 19 were the contacts of a dispenser at a private clinic in Muzaffarabad who had tested positive a few days ago while one belonged to Mirpur.

The fresh positive cases had pushed up AJK’s tally to 132, he said, adding that 51 of them were from Muzaffarabad, 19 from Mipur, 16 from Bhimber, 14 from Kotli, 13 from Poonch, 11 from Sudhnoti, five from Bagh, two from Hattian and one from Neelum.

Only one of these victims had lost his life while 77 had recovered, he said.

Meanwhile, according to an official handout, the AJK government has approved a relief package for lawyers that would be distributed among them through the AJK Bar Council.

Separately, another relief package has also been approved for daily-wagers whose livelihoods had been affected by Covid-19.

The approvals were granted at a meeting presided over by Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider, here on Monday.

The prime minister directed the authorities concerned to complete the distribution process before Eidul Fitr.

Earlier, Senior Member Board of Revenue Fayyaz Ali Abbasi told the meeting that AJK was the only region in the country where relief had been provided to the deserving 225,000 families in one way or the other.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2020